Oksana Onufryk

Teacher, Lviv Academy of Commerce


This conversation is closed.

Are we just slaves in a labelled world?

• How exhausting it could be to try to be perfect, when you're not; to be somebody that you aren't;
• Because when you make a decision at the right time and in the right place the universe makes it happen to you;
• Most of us don't know what we want to do;
• We believe in wrong things, we don't believe in us;
• Everyone must be the very best of our selves;
• No one wants to be invisible, we all have to be included;
• We are not jam jars, we are exrordinary, different, wonderful people!

I just wanted to thank Caroline for these great ideas, so simple and genuine, so sincere and touching. The talk is just amazing, gosh I'm out of words, so simple, deep, accurate and great. She gave the best definition of freedom I ever heard. Everything is here philosophy, love, wisdom and experience. Stereotypes and labels turned us into the desperate slaves, stealing our chances to be happy and positive, manipulating our consciousness and will. Freedom to be what we want to be is definitely the most precious that we have in life, thanks for reminding it. I believe that we have to work hard before we can find our true self - knowledge and experience are the only ways to find our personal freedom and happiness.

  • Apr 12 2011: Well, I could do little but try to say SOMETHING. The attempt to be perfect, more than you are, or great for SOMEONE else is so painful and self-defeating. Still, I have gone on with it (I go on with it) because I've always been the good kid. Now, I wonder what sense I am missing like Ms Casey that keeps me from doing 'the right thing'. Sense meaning one of those I have come to expect. It's weird to want to admit weaknesses but never to be able to come right out with it.

    In my twenties I recall being asked by a VERY sharp friend: "What do you want to do?". I ended up doing the best I could, never admitting any of the damage that had been left by growing up in a home where you DIDN'T admit

    But, what is important? I valued that sharp friend very much, BUT, I still went off and left - did things they couldn't understand.

    I wonder what labels are used by others to describe me. I can come up with a few, but I now truly wonder how I am seen. And here will be my final take on this: the sense I am missing is what others care - and I don't care in the least. I just need to determine what I can use as an Asian elephant to make the lack of that one sense worthwhile.

    Again, thanks to Ms Casey and her friend saying "just be you" - that's what I take away from this.
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      Apr 12 2011: Nice words, but it's easier said than done. Life often imposes hallmarks turning us automatically into slaves/puppets who obey and let their strings to be pulled. Not only does it refer to our professional development, even in private life we are often enslaved by the relationships/responsibilities/duties, which are of no more significance, still can't be ignored. We can try to free your mind but nothing will come out of it if we are dependent on certain life factors that fence us in.
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        Apr 12 2011: You say 'life often imposes hallmarks' -- and implicitly we feel social pressure to meet them. If we can't change the social pressure, we need to find ways to inoculate ourselves from it. If we choose to not conform to those hallmarks (and we do have that choice) we need either an assertive response to the social criticism, or the strength to ignore it.

        And you say 'we are often enslaved by the relationships/responsibilities/duties'. There are certainly roles that are imposed, without choice, but we can at least choose how we respond to them. While the roles can't be ignored, the lack of choice can and should be ignored. If it's not something we can control, why waste time and energy lamenting it? There may be positive value to be found in those roles, if we're open to looking for it. And maybe we can find our own more positive label for them.
  • Apr 11 2011: This talk is great !!
    Life is too short to live in some others' labels or dogma. Just make sure that what we want is truly from our self, not because someone said it is good for us.
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    Apr 9 2011: a label is a border, and i think TED is in the buisness in ridding of these borders.
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    Apr 9 2011: Interesting paradox, though: why buy into the label of "slave" that is being attached?
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    Apr 8 2011: Oksana, this is a provocative thought. I think we each have at least a limited ability to choose how we relate to labels.

    It's human nature to categorize and put labels on things. It helps us to understand and cope with a complicated world. We identify relationships, draw borders, examine plants and animals, look through microscopes and telescopes; and we apply labels to everything we find. We have many labels even for seemingly formless clouds.

    One of your labels is 'teacher', and you added it because this website prompted you to do so. I suspect you didn't give it a second thought. This is descriptive; it doesn't change you and it need not limit you. On the other hand, you might have been labeled 'ballerina', but you accepted a different label and it influenced your choices. How we react to a label depends on who is applying it, and our relationship to that person or group.

    Freedom and happiness, as Caroline notes, depend in part on our ability to define ourselves, rather than to be defined by such labels.
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      Apr 9 2011: Well, I see your point, thanks, but I ment that our life is full of stereotyped lables that often make us unhappy. For instace beauty labels 90/60/90, long legs, flat stomach, even teeth, etc. Do we attend gym to be healthy today? No, we just want to follow the imposed labels, to be fit and attractive. You have to go to college at twenty and get married/have offsprings before you are forty, if not you are hopeless, says another stereotype. In order to be happy you have to earn a lot, to achieve sucess you have to choose the right occupation (lawyer or doctor) and often to sacrifice something.

      Personally I often fail to get rid of many sterotypes, therefore I reckon most of us are slaves of labels like Lagy Gaga, facebook, D&G, BMW, silicone beauty, Harvard, Oxford, etc.
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        Apr 10 2011: I don't agree, I think you can have a great life without earning a lot or holding a spectacular occupation.

        I would be happy being a professor or a writer as long as I get paid enough to sustain myself and live comfortably. As a biochem professor people respect you, you are the boss of your lab and you get to research something which one day might have profound results on society. As a writer you are constantly creating something and giving the world something new to think about and best of all you are working for yourself, you have absolute freedom (well as a successful writer more so).

        So with either of these positions I get autonomy, and I am constantly creating something new and stepping up to new challenges. If holding money in your hands or having a "respected" position is the only thing that makes you feel better about yourself, then I would imagine you are willingly attaching these labels onto yourself and many people do that. Many people like being praised by their neighbours and friends so they will gladly immerse themselves in the norm.
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          Apr 10 2011: 'I would be happy being a professor or a writer as long as I get paid enough to sustain myself and live comfortably.'

          It seems to me here is another label imposed by the society. Have you ever asked yourself why we always want something already possessed by other people: titles, career path, life standards, etc. I think only a few of us, very gifted and extraordinary ones, can create something special not to repeat other people's ideas. Hence, the majority of us gets enslaved by labels.

          Money & success is quite a different topic. You will never say it is an issue of minor importance unless you try living on the breadline, homeless, desperate, unemployed. And it's not just that some are hardworking while others lazy. Many people work hard earning just enough to make their ends meet. What are the reasons?

          Of course, the happiest don't have the best of everything, they make the best of everything. I agree on the idea of creation - it's our innate divine desire, probably the most important what drives us to excel.

          My question is what are the ways to make your dreams come true in a totally biased, labelled world? What if the examination board decides you don't don't deserve to be a professor, that you lack potential, etc? It means we do depend on the labels, don't we?
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        Apr 10 2011: I was interpreting 'label' to mean description or epithet. I think I understand your point now.

        There are archetypes or ideals, for things like physical beauty; templates or patterns, for life sequences like college/marriage/children. We can probably identify some benefits that derive from these labels, for example as goals or as guides for making choices. As for career and financial success, materialism is an affliction of the developed world.

        The problem, then, is to understand how society puts pressure on us to conform and to measure our own success. We want to be like the people in the spotlight, those with the perfect looks, perfect measurements, perfect lives. We buy into the image in the media, and it leaves us feeling inadequate. We want more money, but it's never enough. I think we're looking in the wrong direction and listening to the wrong influences.

        So, Oksana, who are your role models? Not whom do you envy, but who inspires you? If you find the positive characteristics in other people that are worth emulating, then you can measure yourself not based on social norms but on how you've grown and improved yourself. I think that's a major key to freeing yourself from those labels.
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          Apr 10 2011: Thank you, Tom, you've made an excellent point!

          I don't quite have role models at present. Always thought we have to be focused on ourselves rather than on other examples.
        • Apr 11 2011: Role model(s)?? what??!! did I see right?

          How can one claim that having role models in life is better than not having such illusion?
          At best a role model ruins your life in such a way that you would want to become them...!! and forget all about yourself...!!!

          All due respect don't even think about it....!!!! This is one those BUZZWORDS....!!!

          The Earl
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        Apr 10 2011: "I think only a few of us, very gifted and extraordinary ones, can create something special not to repeat other people's ideas."

        This is exactly the kind of dogma that society creates to mislead people. It places competence and the ability to create and solve problems in the hands of an elite. Then you wonder why some people are struggling to make ends meet. Well the supposedly gifted and successful ones feel entitled to property. Do you know how spectacular of a feat it is that every person as an infant can learn language? It is extrodinarily brilliant and creative, and every human has this capacity but few are encouraged to think, because the basic premise of our society is that labor is divided in classes. And the general dogma states that most of these people are bathroom cleaners because they are not "gifted" which is complete bullshit. None of these professional positions require significant amount of intelligence, and if they do it is achievable for the average person. My IQ went from average to superior just through university alone.

        The board indeed determines my fate and this is something I can't escape, but any kind of freedom can only manifest itself through oppression, this is just the nature of facticity, paradoxically it is also required for freedom. I realize people are gonna label me and I realize that. Even when I attempt to construct my own identity I am constructing it as the other, all of us are. However people become mislead when they believe that their own identity is somehow essential to their being. The I or self is completely elusive, even when Descartes said I think therefore I am he was apprehending his own thoughts as an object.
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          Apr 10 2011: Thanks for the interesting ideas, Budimir.

          Well, what can I say, you belong to those who are free from social dogma and it's fantastic. I'm still trying to get rid of mine, and so far to no avail. I really lack logic to see in what way impossible becomes possible.. but it's a different talk. On the one hand, the answer must be determination and hard work. On the other sheer labour is often not enough... The precious times flies, important issues are usually at stake and the price of failure is high for the wasted years. Besides there are other people in our life who rely/demand on us, expect something and get disappointed with our actions. In my case it's really hard to live within stereotypes, since life circumstances often make me obey the social dogma. But I believe the change is still possible for me ...
        • Apr 11 2011: Other than solving problems by the elite, what can you suggest? Illustrate it please.
          How do you consider it a dogma? How many challenging issues none-elite group have resolved so far? can you name just a few....

          It is a big claim to challenge the concept of "Leadership" ..... my advice is that don't comment on issues superficially...!!

          There are always elite groups and different social classes nonetheless there would be waste of time / money & energy; it is a fundamental feature of crowds / groups of any kind and it is not a dogma, the dogma seems to be to blame the elite for rather everything happens to the group out of the ignorance of the ordinary majority comprising the group who usually do not understand the concepts of "Hierarchy" and "Chain of Command" Just go up and become the elite yourself, who is stopping you other than yourself.

          Probably you believe in "Collective wisdom" .... again one of those BUZZWORDS...!!

          These conversations are not only for expressing something for the record, instead it seems these conversations ought to be professional ones alongside mentioning interesting views; and the more genuine and sophisticated the views expressed, the more they are considered, simply because this is not a chat room.

          The Earl
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        Apr 11 2011: Please write more comprehensible questions, stop being obtuse and I will consider answering them.

        As for all the other emtionally charged non-sense that you laid down, well on one hand if we actually had a democratic vote on the issue, America would have never gone to Iraq according to public polls. So there is one problem which would've been handled alot better if decisions where made by the majority as oppossed to the political elite.

        That's not it you sweetie pie, you mind if I call you sweetie pie?

        Just read a few anthropolgy books and you will realize that there are plenty of societies which are predominantly peaceful and function without hierarchy.

        Look into some coop businesses and you will also find organzied functional businesses where decisions are made through democractic vote of all workers as oppossed to managers and CEOs. Places like this exist and they don't promote elitism in the slightest sense and these are relevant business models that can be incorporated without the necessity for leadership and hierarchy.

        Leadership is necessary sometimes, when there are children and they are not mature enough to make decisions for themselves. Or there is a capable doctor on an island of injured survivors, But in many cases where you have been mislead to believe that leadership is a necessity it is actually not.

        Now from here you can draw your own conclusions.
        • Apr 11 2011: This is not my job here to put your sentences as well as your (flawed) reasoning, one by one, under critical and scientific analysis and scrutiny. Your reply suffices....it shows the very way you misinterpret data and then integrate it in a very wrong way. I just suggest that you study / peruse more and do some scientific research for your own sake, of course if interested.

          The question that you asked for is as follows, although I posed it before;

          Whenever there is a problem that a solution is sought for, some expert opinion is called for or in your simple words "The Elite" who might come with a useful hint, given the everyday life issues and problems that any company / society / group might face what do you suggest as the route to be taken in order to resolve the problem rather than asking for advice from "The Elite" or more precisely the experts of the field?

          I don't need to mention that I seek a scientific and reasonable response, or even one that is based on sensible empirical evidence rather than just saying something demotic as reply.

          The Earl
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        Apr 12 2011: Well I don't know if it's your job or not but you did improve the question so it deserves an answer this time around. As for the empirical evidence you can look that up yourself I'm not the one who needs to be convinced of anything.

        Firstly, you assume that only a small group of people can acquire expert knowledge in the very question you are posing. That's completely ridiculous, it's a loaded question. Experts are not elite in any intrinsic way anyone can can acquire expert knowledge but conditions for acquiring that knowledge present problems for people who may not have money, who were raised to shun the educational system. Most importantly competitive barriers are purposely imposed by instutitions to weed out people, most of these standards are put in place mostly fo that purpose an there are several studies that do present good statistics on the subject.

        Secondly, experts are the elite? Seriously? Most experts tend to be just workers, managers and poiliticians tend to make the big decisions on their behalf and like I showed you with earlier examples these authority figures are not required, if you look at public polls people tend to make pretty smart decisions on average. If you look at businesses there are some very successful co-op businesses.

        Hopefully that answers your question.
        • Apr 12 2011: Apparently, neither did you understand the question nor you have an answer for it.
          your reply seems no more than ravings and I don't have time to waste on chat room talks the way you do.

          It's not a surprise that ordinary people see things that they expect to see, hear things that they prefer to hear and interpret things in the way they favor.

          The Earl
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        Apr 12 2011: Your eliteness is now just oozing out of every single orifice I can imagine. Just letting you know.
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      Apr 10 2011: Imagination works by connecting old ideas in new ways. That's all it is, if you feel very strongly about something you will find a way to come up with something new, you will find a way to dig out your own niche in the chaos.

      If not concsiously then unconcsiously I am sure there is something that motivates you to live and be passionate about what you do. No one can get in your mind and transfer this passion on to you, that's something that is truly private and unique to you..
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        Apr 10 2011: Finding our niche in the bedlam ... gives a life meaning. Working on the problem means finding solutions, right..

        Excellent conclusion, Budimir, you are a good talker and idea generator, thanks.
  • Apr 10 2011: Is this a labeled world? Well, maybe...maybe not..... the question is who puts the labels on things? Humans for sure do so... It's not that bad as long as you don't use simplified models for rather everyday life issue....one of the worst things happened to us is the excessive use of metaphors and models and structures of this ilk.....it could be very dangerous.

    Are we slaves? Sure we are.....we have led ourselves to this....the world is simple in its pure natural form....it's us that make it complex and make it seem complicated....it's actually not. We have brought ourselves here.....The very moment that organizations came to exist the human species became endangered, we don't see it because we are involved so much in it....we are engaged in this fabricated artificial environment we created ourselves, in such a way that we even forgot who made it.........it's human's nature that forgets his own fabrications whether physical or conceptual..........
    And deep in this natural tendency of human's brain lies the very dangerous predominant acceptance of the environment he lives in -usually taken for granted- as it is and not as how it got to be.

    The Earl
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      Apr 10 2011: What are your solutions, to accept what we have or to thrive for something better?
      • Apr 10 2011: First, keep in mind that "There is no one best way" This simple sentence carries a deep meaning with itself.
        What I can suggest is that don't take concepts/beliefs / simplified models / metaphors /... for granted; I am aware that it's not an easy task to perform but worth trying...but for your own sake don't go too far because when you gaze into the abyss and start staring deep through then it might stare back at you and that moment on it will not be the same for you anymore.
        Maybe this quote conveys the meaning although it's not science based and actually this quote is kind of metaphorical itself but in a very general sense. The quote:
        "You got your rules and your ... All designed to keep you safe but when rules start getting broken you start questioning your faith"
        There are situations that there exists no alternative but acceptance, as a good example consider yourself being born in your family as a beloved daughter to your parents ... can you outrun your past? can you say what if I was born to another family? can you say what if I was born of another race? even if you or your mind start asking these questions and goes beyond limits of ordinary thinking, you cannot do anything substantially important and significant about it.... you can't outrun your past.This does NOT mean that your present condition and your future is bind to your past, since in modern physics it is widely believed and accepted that when dealing with a complex system comprised of too many variables and factors, the development of the system and it's evolution has not that much to do with it's previous states as well as its initial conditions and at the same time you should be aware that given any better initial conditions, a system might evolve / grow in such a way that is considered stronger / better / healthier..! such a dilemma, I know, well, that's what it's all about. Quote:
        “The way in which the world is imagined determines at any particular moment what men will do.”

        The Earl
    • Apr 10 2011: "it's human's nature that forgets his own fabrications whether physical or conceptual" Well said.

      There is a reality behind fabrications. But only people who come even close to understand it are quantum physics. But there is not much we can help ourselves with that knowledge in everyday world.

      So everything we think are simplifications which are labels. Yes, in a way we are slaves, but there is no alternative. There is no "real" reality behind labels, except chaos of complex mathematical equations.

      A "solution" is in realizing our life is construct, and make peace with that. To get a certain distance from our own believes.